Outside the Refugium

The myths and folklore of traditional people the world over are replete with descriptions . . . of refugia, the inviolable strongholds of animals and plants of which the storyteller and her people steer clear . . . missing only the human, and holding out the promise of a less tumultuous future.
—Barry Lopez, Home Ground


The sparrow is an opened book, an angel

parted down the breast, head turned to the side
so one black eye can search the stippled sky

in ecstasy as the magpie straddles and works

the body over with famished care. I sit
beneath the silver olive and watch, rub

a single fruit between my thumb and forefinger

until it slips its furred skin, until the dark pit
rolls there. No pool of blood, just her shit-stuck feathers

and a cloud of aspen leaves painted with drought’s

dusty watercolor scar. When he finds the heart,
the magpie tucks it down his throat, a jewel

hidden in haste before the border’s crossing.

Yes, the world has always been this fragile,
he says as he lifts her by the ribcage

and carries her off to where I cannot see.